Misfortune is an unwelcome visitor that takes many forms — a devastating disease, fire, loss of livelihood, death of a loved one, financial debilitation or scandal.
Those caught in its trap find themselves in turmoil that can be metaphorically described as a raging storm at sea.
But those storms are weathered with the help of friends and even strangers who offer a helping hand.
The silver lining around the gloomy cloud of misfortune is that it happens in a community where people look after each other.
Having devoted 35 years to writing Kodiak stories, I can’t tell you how many times people have said they haven’t seen a place as generous and empathetic as Kodiak.
Kodiak is a caring community. It really is. Annette Kutyna found that out two years ago when her significant other, Gary Nielsen, died unexpectedly. Many in the community came alongside her and the family to help them financially and emotionally.
Recently, Annette was painfully reminded of Kodiak’s generosity when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Annette’s fellow employees, Renee Anthony and Kerri Kerns of Henry’s, where she worked as a waitress for 20 years, spearheaded a drive to help the family with medical bills and other expenses and needs.
At a customer’s suggestion, an online account was initiated on Annette’s behalf. A fundraising dinner and auction featuring good food (prime rib) and live acoustical guitar music is slated for Sunday, April 19, at the Elks. Annette’s Henry’s colleagues will participate in the event. Tickets are $50.
Appetizers will be provided at 4 p.m. Dinner will be served from 5 to 6:30 p.m. An auction begins at 7 p.m..
Gifts and donations for the event have “just been pouring in,” said Renee. “Everybody has been helping. It’s been amazing.”
A mother of six who has been a Girl Scout leader and served on the board for the football league, Renee said she is not surprised by the boisterous response to appeals.
“I’ve lived here for 33 years,” Renee said. “Most of us don’t have family. Everybody here is family. It’s a crazy town. It’s like that.”
“Everybody has been so generous with their time and efforts in getting this fundraiser going,” said Annette.
People “are there for me,” she said. “I want to say thanks to everybody. I appreciate everything.”
The following week, the community will have an opportunity to support the McCarthy brothers, Peter and James, who are being treated for cancer.
A buffet-style meal featuring halibut Olympia and an auction will be held at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center on Saturday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25. There will also be live music performed by local musicians. Tickets are $50 each.
The brothers’ sister-in-law, Stina McCarthy, and others have been organizing the event. An account has also been set up for the McCarthys.
Stina has been touched by the vigorous response.
“I’ve gotten donations from people that don’t even know (the brothers.) That’s awesome and so great,” she said.
Jessica Gardner is not surprised to see the benevolence heaped on Annette, the McCarthy brothers and their families.
In 2008, her daughter, Madisyn Sickafoose, was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.
The family planned to take her to the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Because of foul weather, flights out of here were backed up. There was no assurance that the family would be able to get on the first flight once the weather cleared.
Passengers on the next available flight were more than happy to give up their seats to the family.
But the family got an even better deal.
“A wonderful woman named Amanda Henderson,” said Jessica, asked the Kodiak Coast Guard base commander to get the family out on a special flight.
“We are not Coast Guard, just a local Kodiak family,” said Jessica.
Soon the commander transported the family to the base and arranged for them to be medevaced on a C-130.
“Madisyn was treated like a princess by the Coast Guard,” Jennifer said.
During the family’s 10-month stay in Seattle, Madyson received cards and gifts almost daily.
Meanwhile back on the island, fundraisers were organized for the family.
“They literally saved us from losing our house,” Jessica said. “They provided us with peace of mind so we could focus on Madisyn and her treatment.”
When the family returned to Kodiak, the airport was packed with people welcoming Madisyn home.
“Some we had never met in person,” said Jessica. “Word’s cannot express our gratitude to the Kodiak community. We are so glad that we call Kodiak home.”
Jessica reports that Madyson has been doing well.
Diane Nelson Cooper and her siblings are grateful for the generosity of the people in Kodiak and Port Lions, where her step father, Nick Nelson Sr., died in a village fire Sunday, March 22.
Villagers fought the flames and, once the fire was quenched, helped clean up the mess and comfort Nick’s devastated family.
Diane ordered the funeral flowers and a wreath from a shop she discovered online.
The flowers were to be delivered by noon Friday, April 3, the day before the funeral.
By Saturday morning they had not arrived. Diane contacted the shop, only to learn that the arrangements had not been made yet and the flower shop was in New Jersey.
“I could not have been more devastated,” Diane said.
A few hours before the funeral, Diane, who lives in Alabama, called Constance Olsen of Omega Flowers in Kodiak, who agreed to make the casket flower arrangement, which normally takes five to six hours to assemble.
“The florist got it done in plenty of time and delivered the flowers to Servant Air who got it (to Port Lions) in the nick of time.”
Diane discovered that Omega Flowers was not even open for business that day.
“When I asked her why she did it, Constance said that God told her to help me,” said Diane.
“That day I not only talked to an angel but made a forever friend. I will be forever grateful to Constance.”
Diane is also grateful to Bella’s Flowers, which made the wreath on short notice and delivered it to Servant Air.
Wes Osowski, owner of Servant Air, took the flowers at no charge on a charter to Port Lions.
“Kodiak really has some awesome people and I am proud to call them my own,” Diane said.
ANNETTE KUTYNA WITH SON, BRIAN KUTYNA, AND GRANDSON, RYLAND BEAR KUTYNA (Photo Courtesy Annette Kutyna)
DIANE NELSON COOPER (Photo Courtesy Diane Nelson Cooper)
MADYSON SICKAFOOSE (Photo Courtesy Jessica Gardner)